Fuck Rolling Stone—A interview with Jackie Greene.
Jackie Greene is living a pretty cool life. His songs are on the radio. He tours around the country with friends. He guest sets with Phil Lesh and the Mother Hips.
As chance would have it I got the chance to interview Jackie for the local weekly here in Santa Cruz, Good Times. Very little was used in the story as it ran and so I decided to create a longer piece for the web.
We started a preliminary talk via email as Jackie was driving around Montana on tour with his band. We moved onto a phone call and things loosened up a bit.
DNA: How was your last show at the Santa Cruz Blues Festival?
Jackie: As I recall, the weather was perfect last time and the crowd was really energetic and eager to be moved. The food was fantastic and we had lots of fun. Things like that stand out to me.
DNA: Promoter Bill Welch books you for the Blues Fest, as well as Moe’s Alley—are good promoters essential to your happiness on the road?
Jackie: Bill lives and breathes live music. I've done a dozen shows with
him and each one has been great. He takes care of the acts that come through his club. He knows what it's like.
DNA: You playing new songs on the road?
Jackie: As far as new songs, we have several but may or may not play them yet. We're dipping into the old songs a lot more and stretching out our improvised stuff a lot more. We're not really a "jam band" but we wear that hat pretty well sometimes.
DNA: Do you change up your set depending on the venue you’re playing?
Jackie: Well there's a certain amount of "playing to the crowd" that goes on. But more or less, we just do our thing. We're getting better and better and feeling out the situation and adapting if we need to...so it's kind of hard to say.
DNA: As a terminal Deadhead, I was a bit more than surprised when you joined Phil Lesh and Friends.
Jackie: Phil called me on the phone and asked me to come to a recording session and help write some songs, play guitar, sing, etc. I guess he heard a song of mine on the radio, really liked it and bought the record. I was familiar with the Grateful Dead but by no means a Deadhead. Now, I am. Phil has introduced me to a wonderful
world of music that has been really inspirational to me. He's one of the true visionaries of music. The Deadheads have been really kind to me and I'm stoked to be involved in their world. I was nervous as first, but I felt warmth and opened up to it.
DNA: You ever get star struck when you meet people like B.B. King?
Jackie: I did a few tours with BB King as his opener about 5 years ago. He's one of the greats, for sure. The first time I saw him, I was 17 years old. Next thing I know, I was opening for him. I'm a big fan. His band is fantastic.
DNA: Do you feel like crowds in Montana are more eager to see your shows because there’s nothing else to do besides trap beavers?
Jackie: I think there's a certain amount of truth to that, but at the same time city crowds like San Francisco and New York can be pretty
enthusiastic. I think it boils down to the setting, venue, vibe, how much tequila was consumed, etc. We don't get much time to sleep so we usually try and catch up on rest between shows.
DNA: Who owns the studio?
Jackie: Tim and I own the studio together and started it a couple years ago. He's in there more than me because I'm always on the road.
Right now I'm working on my new record that Tim is producing along
with our friend Dave Simon Baker.
DNA: You guys are good friends?
Jackie: Tim is one of my dearest friends and he's a one of a kind person. He's very important to me.
(Finding a moment in Montana where his cell phone got bars, Jackie called up.)
DNA: Hey Jackie what’s going on.
Jackie: How ya doing man, we’re driving through Montana.
DNA: God’s country, big skies…
Jackie: Animals and shit
DNA: People with guns
Jackie: Crazy fuckers.
DNA: Are you in a tour bus?
Jackie: No, we roll in a van. We’re stopping for a little dinner here.
DNA: Moose burgers?
So I did a little research online and during an NPR interview you said that you couldn’t say on the radio why you moved from Sacramento to San Francisco.
Jackie: I did?
DNA: Yeah, you said it was a reason you couldn’t say on the radio.
Jackie: Oh, well, shit, I don’t know why I said that. I was probably going to say something negative about Sacramento. I mean, I don’t have anything bad to say about Sacramento, but at the time I was probably irritated about Sacramento. I moved because Tim and I started a recording studio. I wanted to anyway but the studio kind of kicked me in the ass to do it………..sinking a bunch of money into a place helped the decision making.
DNA: You grew up in Salinas?
Jackie: I was born in Salinas but I grew up in Placerville
DNA: My girlfriend is working in Salinas today?
Jackie: Oh cool
DNA: You might be in love with a Mexican girl, but she’s trying to keep them from getting pregnant. (Disclaimer: DNA is a stand-up comic not afraid of a terrible joke.)
Jackie: She’s helping them out.
DNA: Do you and Tim have a name for your recording studio?
Jackie: Its called Mission Bells.
DNA: Tim just finished up with Hot Buttered Rum.
Jackie: That’s right. They did that one there. We did a record with a cat named Chris Velan from Montréal. The Hips are halfway through their new record, I’m about a ¼ the way through mine. A lot of shit goes through Mission Bells.
DNA: Are you represented by Digg or Verve?
Jackie: Currently I’m on a label called 429, before that I was on Verve. Digg is a label but they are just my management co.
DNA: Are you still playing with Phil Lesh and Friends?
Jackie: We toured in 07 and 08, but now he’s playing with the Dead.
DNA: Are you playing with the Dead?
Jackie: No, no, no. I’m in Phil’s band, we don’t have anything planned for this year, but you never know, Phil’s pretty surprising.
DNA: For an old guy.
Jackie: For an old guy, he’s pretty last minute.
DNA: You’d think he’d have better planning by now. But he’s earned it.
How did you and Tim Bluhm originally meet? Were you into seeing the Hips play?
Jackie: There’s a ten-year age difference between us. I think I was a sophomore in HS when Shoot Out came out and I was totally into it. A group of friends and I were really into the Hips and we would go the park in Sacramento and see them play. We met about 5 years ago--I actually had met John the drummer, years before I met Tim. I met him at a show I was playing at and he was working at the club or something. He said, “I’m the drummer for the Mother Hips, and I was like, “I love your band.” He told Tim about me, and we started talking by email, turned out Tim was playing a solo show in NYC. We had a night off and saw him play and we hung out. I think I bought him some beer and pizza. We’ve been friends ever since.
DNA: Is that it all it takes with Tim, some beer and pizza?
Jackie: That’s pretty good for a Chico boy.
DNA: How did you end up onstage with the Hips, did you rehearse and learn the songs?
Jackie: Tim and I are next door neighbors, so it just sort of happened. We decided that I would play with them whenever they are around--I’m like the fifth Hip.
DNA: I believe that one day the world will discover the amazing cavalcade of songs that the Mother Hips have.
Jackie: They’re one of my favorite bands too.
DNA: Skinny Singers--you have a new album coming out?
Jackie: We are slowly working on something. I have my album due, so we’re working on that first. It’s fun because it’s really simple stuff, we try not make it too complicated. Our thing is that with the Skinny Singers we keep it simple so we can invite our friends to play with us and they don’t have to know our songs. Mike Ferrel played with us the other night.
DNA: It’s like Delaney and Bonnie.
Jackie: Exactly, but way more simple.
DNA: You are in the midst of a pretty long tour; it seems to stretch out through the whole year.
Jackie: With a few breaks, we’re going to come home for a couple of days and head back out for a few weeks. That kind of thing.
DNA: Looks like you are on the track Amber Eyes, by Bryn Loosely’s new album, Wrecking Crew.
Jackie: My part was done at Mission Bells.
DNA: Bryn’s another Chico guy making good. So, to keep it short--I am putting together an article for the local paper, it’s not Rolling Stone.
Jackie: That’s good. Fuck Rolling Stone. You can quote me on that.
DNA: There’s my title for the piece.